A FORTY MINUTE INTERVIEW
Bill Drummond, one of the greatest disruptors this city has ever seen, will be delivering the inaugural Roger Eagle Memorial Lecture as part of Pow Wow! during our bido100! programme. We requested to interview Bill in anticipation of this event: he declined. Instead, he offered to make one of us the subject of one of his Forty Minute Interviews.
Craig Pennington is the publisher of Bido Lito! and can be held responsible for the Liverpool International Festival Of Psychedelia.
I first met Craig when he was based at Static up on Roscoe Lane back in 2012. He was involved with the curation of The Curfew Tower for that year. The Curfew Tower being an artist’s residency that I run in County Antrim, Ireland.
After that he and his set up were the promoters of Welcome To The Dark Ages in August of 2017. This Welcome To The Dark Ages was something that I was heavily involved with.
Earlier this year Craig asked me if I would give the inaugural Roger Eagle Memorial Lecture this coming 7th June. I agreed. He then asked me if I would be interviewed by him for Bido Lito!. I told him I find it difficult doing interviews in this day and age. I told him that I now do something I call Forty Minute Interviews, where I do the interviewing. I asked Craig if I could interview him for one of these Forty Minute Interviews and he could use it in whatever way he saw fit. He agreed. And we agreed it would be done via email exchanges. And, as such, the actual 40 minute-ness of it could not be quantified. The whole thing, including this introduction, would be no longer than 1,500 words.
My memory is not that good, but I think Craig is from the Wirral somewhere and that he supports Tranmere Rovers. The first question I would like to ask goes like this:
Bill: Is the introduction bit basically correct? And if not can you clarify?
Craig: I am indeed from the Wirral and I do support Tranmere Rovers, something of a joyous burden. Though Curfew Tower was the first time we worked together, you gave a performance of The17 within the disused departure lounge of the former Cork International Airport, part of Paul Sullivan’s Terminal Convention in 2011. I remember us all having breakfast in a mocked-up airplane fuselage the next morning in the hotel next door.
You also don’t know this, but you signed my copy of The17 at Waterstones in Leeds in 2008. I made a complete idiot of myself with my babbling attempt at conversation when I compared your writing to Ian Rankin. I meant Ian Clayton. I was mortally embarrassed.
Bill: Had to look up on Google to find out who Ian Clayton was. Haven’t figured out if the comparison is a positive or a negative one but…The next question is:
If we, as human beings, do destroy the planet as it seems we might, then in several thousand years, the earth is visited by aliens from wherever those aliens come from and they land on what was Merseyside, and they find one long-playing record, by a band that came from Merseyside. And they find a record player to play it on. And electricity to power it. And they play that record. What would you want that record to be and why? As in, it does not have to be your favourite, or culturally what we might judge to be the most important, but the one that you would want to… Or it could be… You get the picture?
Craig: OK, so I’m assuming that if these said aliens have landed on Merseyside, they’re likely to make their way to other areas of our devastated ball of rock, formerly other continents and countries. If they do, they’ll find the impact of our most famous sons and daughters everywhere. Therefore, I’d leave them something quintessentially of this place, a group and a record moulded by our city. A record indelibly linked to the story of Liverpool, that tells our musical past, leans on our transatlantic gaze and sets the palette for the music that would follow. Something shrouded in myth – like all great records from here are. I would pick The La’s, by The La’s. Ian Clayton’s Bringing It All Back Home is one of my favourite books, a beautiful memoir that digs into the truest meaning of music in our lives.
Bill: Then I better listen to The La’s, by The La’s. I think There She Goesis the only record of theirs that I properly know. As for the next question – a few weeks ago I heard a news story about how the estate of Elvis Presley were threatening the city council of Memphis with the fact that they were going to move Graceland to another country. The other countries in the running were China, Japan or the United Arab Emirates – basically, to the highest bidder. And that is then where the Elvis tourists would then flock to. Now is not the time and place to go into my long-term relationship with Elvis, but this idea did excite me in all sorts of ways, both good and bad, and it did influence my next question, which is:
If you could move the whole of Merseyside, as in not just Liverpool, to any other country in the world, what country would that be and why?
Craig: The Graceland move does sound pretty preposterous. But then, so does closing, bricking up and filling in your greatest cultural asset and tourist golden goose. Sound familiar? Councils don’t always need a private estate holding a gun, they can be pretty good at pulling the trigger themselves.
But to the question in point, moving Merseyside. It’s long been said that, in many ways, this place is something of an island: ‘in England, but not of it’ and all that. So, maybe there’s something in it? Though I don’t subscribe to the ‘Scouse Not English’ drum banging – nor the muckier end of LFC-inspired elitism – it is impossible to get away from the fact that Merseyside does have its own outlook, our own worldview. With the whole Brexit tragedy, this has been brought into focus again, with us being an island of Europhile majority in an English, shark-infested ocean.
This being said, I imagine the question was intended with a slightly more jovial bent than on which I’ve hinged it! If Merseyside was a little warmer and wealthier I think we’d all be a touch happier. I’d pick up the lot and create our own tax haven in the Caribbean, an independent sovereign state within Guadeloupe perhaps, with the economic spoils from the fat cats split out as a universal basic income for all.
Bill: I will respond to The Beatles / Cavern section of your answer in my fifth and final question, but this fourth one is about German Bombers.
In the Second World War a German bomber that had been given the job to bomb shipbuilding yards on the Clyde, got lost on its way back to the Fatherland and crashed into a mountain near my hometown. As a lad, me and my mates would climb that mountain and sit in what was left of the wreck of this German bomber and pretend to be flying over various parts of the world dropping bombs.
At the lunchtime of my first day at Art School in Liverpool in 1972, I walked from Hope Street, down Leece Street towards Bold Street. It was then that I saw Saint Luke’s for the first time. And I was told how it had been bombed by a German bomber in the Second World War. And I thought back to my childhood exploits about pretending to bomb sites all over the world.
So my question is: if you were at the controls of Heinkel bomber flying over Liverpool tonight, which building would you choose to bomb, instead of the Saint Luke’s? And, of course. why?
Craig: OK so I’m going to have to apply some caveats to this answer:
- Miraculously, no individual is hurt during the raid.
- Any damage is exclusively reserved for said target.
Those two assurances in place, I would have no issue taking out the new Wolstenholme Square development. Moreover, I would use this hypothetical scenario as an opportunity to enact some restorative justice, simultaneously re-establishing The Kazimier, Nation and Wolstenholme Creative Space in the process.
The journey our city has been on over the past 10 years, with a ‘profit all costs’ approach to planning and development, has shown a lack of understanding or basic grasp of the irreversible damage this approach would result in. Damage to the very ‘culture’ we sell around the world.
I’m hopeful for the future, though, and believe our new Liverpool City Region Music Board has the potential to shape some real influence. But it is hard not to lament what has happened.
Bill: So back to The Cavern and, in turn, The Beatles. Within days of me coming to Art School in Liverpool back in October 1972, I ventured down to Mathew Street to pay homage to The Cavern. It looked exactly as it had done in the jigsaw puzzle that I had of The Beatles playing on its stage, except the place was almost empty. On stage was a four-piece heavy rock band, all with very long black hair, all ethnically Chinese, all with Scouse accents. I have no idea what they were called, but I do remember them playing a Status Quo cover. I often wonder what happened to them. As you have implied in one of your earlier answer, the council saw fit to fill the place in (1973). It was not until after John Lennon was shot (1980) followed by the Toxteth Riots (1981) did the local council see fit to attempt to exploit – without any grace – the legacy of the city.
But back to my final question – if you, and in turn Merseyside, could swap The Beatles with any other band from any other city from anywhere in the world, what band and what city would it be?
Craig: First off, The Beatles caveat: I love them. They’re the greatest gift we could have as a city. We just need to make sure we harness the gift progressively, which is where the issue often arises.
I’ve mentioned elsewhere in this magazine edition about my recent exploits to Copenhagen. As a city, they get so much right: sustainability, inclusivity, happiness. There is a huge amount we can learn about the way we imagine our city and people’s day-to-day experience. That being said, though, Copenhagen has an exciting music scene – particularly a buoyant psych movement. I wouldn’t want to be fishing for our Beatles replacement in such waters. If we’re looking at replacing them with an artist of equal standing, I’d go with David Bowie. For me, the greatest lesson we can learn from Bowie is his eternal and lifelong inquisitiveness. He never stopped loving to challenge himself, experiment, evolve. Liverpool’s complete fascination with nostalgia – surely the most unhealthy of characteristics – has historically held our city back. Over the past nine years we’ve been publishing Bido Lito!,I’ve certainly seen this subside. But, if we’re going to ditch them, swapping the Fab Four out for an artist who embodies the notion of continuous and long-term creative evolution would be a positive move.
Or we just cull the old-guard full stop and put up a statue of Yank Scally.
Bill: I had to look up Yank Scally on Google, but very much appreciate that I have done so. And will now observe his progress with much anticipation.
I got an email from you separate to these exchanges, requesting an image to go with this – you suggested ‘the fish one’ which I assume to mean the one of me standing in a river holding a salmon. This was taken 10 years ago, and it is me standing in the Penkiln Burn, which is a small river by my home town of Newton Stewart, where I used to go and fish and play. And where I hope my ashes are scattered. Minus the 23 grams that are to be fired in a brick and placed in the People’s Pyramid in Toxteth. The photo in question is also the first of a series called The Life And Death Of An Artist. These photos all follow the same format and are all taken by my colleague, Tracey Moberly. I will send you the first and the latest ones. Also a photo of my IMAGINE WAKING UP TOMORROW AND ALL MUSIC HAS DISAPPEARED graffiti under the Runcorn Bridge.
Thanks for agreeing to do this interview and see you at the first of the Roger Eagle Lecture
The Bluecoat – 07/06
Bill Drummond will be giving the inaugural ROGER EAGLE MEMORIAL LECTURE at The Bluecoat on 7th June, as part of bido100!.
Few people have had the same indelible impact on Liverpool’s music story as Roger Eagle. He founded Eric’s and changed the sound, sensibility and mindset of the city’s music community for good. As promoter at The Stadium he brought Lou Reed, Captain Beefheart and David Bowie to Liverpool. And as a mentor to the myriad musicians and dreamers who passed through his orbit he was an outlook-shaping force. We never met Roger. But, Bido Lito! has been moulded by his legacy and the Eric’s-generation whose lives he touched and perspectives he shaped.
The Roger Eagle Memorial Lecture will act as our ongoing tribute to the man. Each year, we will invite an artist, musician or instigator – someone whose take and perspective on the world today is in tune with Roger’s spirit – to deliver a lecture on a music-related subject they see as pertinent and pressing today. Their only starting reference will be a copy of Brutality, Religion And A Dance Beat, a six-page pamphlet written by Bill Drummond at the time of Roger’s passing in 1999.
The lecture on 7th June will be preceded on the evening by the Pow Wow! debate: our opportunity to dissect and discuss some of the central themes within the bido100! project. What do we foresee the future will hold: a dystopian, culture-less nightmare or a utopian, Technicolor dream? What does the media of the future look like? How will our political systems change? What can we do to protect our planet against the existential threat of climate change?
Bido Lito! will be in conversation with The Guardian’s Assistant Membership Editor Sophie Zeldin-O’Neill, Labour MP Alison McGovern and Dr Ariel Edesess of the Low Carbon Eco-Innovatory at LJMU, to dissect and debate our collective future.
Only a limited number of tickets are available for this event. Get yours here.